NJ--Victims urge blast Newark Catholic officials over predator

By David Clohessy
Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
August 19, 2015

It’s heartbreaking to learn that, once again, New Jersey Catholic officials told a predator priest to flee the US to evade police. And it’s equally heartbreaking to learn that the priest later returned to the US and got a job around kids and remains a teacher even now.

A new report says that Fr. Manuel Gallo Espinoza of the Newark Archdiocese admits molesting a boy. Two church officials urged him to fly home, Fr. Espinoza says. (One is Fr. Jevie Hercules. The other is Antonino Salazar, who headed a church youth group.)

So Fr. Espinoza escaped to Equador, returned to the US and taught for years, but is now back in Equador still teaching.

We call on police and prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against the Newark archdiocesan officials who helped Fr. Espinoza evade the law. We firmly believe that if law enforcement officials are brave, determined and hard-working, they will be able to successfully charge and convict high ranking Catholic staffers who may have obstructed justice, shredded evidence, intimidated victims, discredited whistleblowers, stonewalled police, deceived prosecutors, refused to report child sex crimes or violated any number of other laws.

Initially, a NJ Advance Media investigation reported that Fr. Espinoza “fled back to South America from the Newark archdiocese after a victim reported having been raped by the priest. (Catholic officials admit the report was “credible” and law enforcement sought to interview Fr. Espinoza.)”

Now, it’s clear that this is NOT really true. Fr. Espinoza did not “flee.” Fr. Espinoza was TOLD to flee by a Catholic cleric and colleague. That priest should be defrocked.

Shame on every last Catholic employee who hid or enabled Fr. Espinoza’s crimes. (Over the years, we suspect that dozens of Newark church officials have learned details about Fr. Espinoza’s crimes, escapes and whereabouts but have kept quiet instead of calling authorities.) They knowingly put innocent children in harm’s way. Their self-serving secrecy and recklessness shows how very little has changed within the Catholic hierarchy. The obsession is still on protecting clerical careers and comfort, even if it means endangering kids.

The NJ Advance Media investigation also showed that a few years after being told to flee, Fr. Espinoza quietly returned to the US and began teaching at Parkdale High School in Prince George's County, Maryland from May 1, 2008, through Feb. 28, 2014. This is beyond tragic. It’s inexcusable. And it’s proof that little is changing in the Catholic hierarchy.

Fr. Espinoza reportedly also worked in recent years (from 2005-2008) at Beville Middle School (703-878-2593) in Dale City/Woodbridge Virginia in the Arlington diocese.

We call on bishops in three states – Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey – to aggressively seek out others who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Espinoza. We also urge them to turn over every single page of records they may have on Fr. Espinoza to police and prosecutors. And we beg these bishops to use parish bulletins, church websites and pulpit announcements to prod anyone with information or suspicions to call law enforcement.

These bishops – Newark Archbishop John Myers, Maryland Archbishop William Lori and Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde - should also promptly fire any and every church employee – from custodian to chancellor – who knew or suspected Fr. Espinoza’s crimes but hid or ignored them. Catholics and citizens in each of those dioceses should rise up and demand these firings.

Bishop Alfredo José Espinoza Mateus, head of the Loja Diocese in Equador, where Fr. Espinoza now works, should publicly and repeatedly warn his flock about the admitted molester.

And every single person who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Espinoza or cover ups by his church colleagues should call police and prosecutors today. Whether your suspicions or information seems old, small or inconsequential, it should be given to law enforcement. We never know what tiny fact or vague hunch might make a huge difference in catching, charging or convicting clerics who commit and conceal child sex crimes.

Finally, we applaud Max Rojas Ramirez for having the strength and courage to disclose the crimes he suffered, cooperate with law enforcement and speak publicly. He is a true hero. We hope his bravery will inspire others in pain to step forward, start healing and safeguard others.



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